Pandemic Policy, Women & Families, and Silver Linings

There are a few policies that have come out of the pandemic that are especially beneficial to women and families.


First off, the Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA) was signed into law March 18, 2020 and included some essential temporary (April 1 through December 31, 2020) protections that women and families would be well-served to make permanent.



The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act covers employees who have worked for their employer for at least 30 calendar days (including certain rehired employees) at businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Here are a few more details:

  • The leave is available if you are unable to work or telework due to your need to care for a son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19

  • Benefit is 2/3 of wages up to $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate

  • Employees may take up to 12 weeks of emergency family leave, 10 of which are paid

There are some exemptions: The Department of Labor has discretion to exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees from the requirement if doing so would jeopardize their business as a going concern. And employers of health care providers and emergency responders can exclude such employees from receiving leave.


Though the provisions are not perfect, they are improvements over the current federal policies. But they are temporary, so we need to get to work with coalition partners to make them permanent. Want to get more involved? There are biweekly policy calls convened by Paid Leave for All. Send them a note, get the link, and jump on next Monday to find out more.


Also in the FFCRA:


Section 1104 details a waiver of the matching funds requirement under the women's business center program. During the 3-month period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the requirement relating to obtaining cash contributions from non-Federal sources under section 29(c)(1) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 656(c)(1)) is waived for any recipient of assistance under such section 29.


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) was signed into law March 27, 2020. And it had a couple of interesting and important pieces in the fine print. Here's the best one:


Over-the-counter menstrual products will now be eligible for purchase using money from pre-tax health savings accounts! Yes, the CARES Act lists menstrual products as items eligible for coverage by HSAs and FSAs and allows anyone with an HSA or FSA funds to file for reimbursement of menstrual products purchased in 2020.


Menstrual equity advocate and founder of the organization Period Equity Jennifer-Weiss Wolf said the bill’s acknowledgment of menstruation is a silver lining. "The idea that gender equity and menstrual equity are finding their way into the policy solutions and crisis interventions that our leaders are forging is really important," she told Global Citizen.

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